When legislators way up there in the wilds of South Dakota passed a ban on abortion in February, it was easy to write it off as winter dementia. Obviously those snow-bound South Dakotans were desperate to get some attention by passing a law in direct opposition to the U.S. Constitution. (Hey, Supreme Court, look at me!!) What’s going on in Louisiana isn’t so easy to disregard, however, and not just because Hurricane Katrina’s still so fresh in the mind. The Legislature down in the Bayou State is following South Dakota’s lead and working on an even stricter ban on all abortions. The South Dakota version at least has some leniency built in for saving the life of the mother, but some Louisiana legislators oppose even that. And neither state’s abortion ban would make an exception for the 14-year-old girl raped by her uncle or the neighborhood pedophile. Perhaps the naive reasoning goes that since rape and incest are against the law, it will never happen. Aren’t laws great? Those border-enforcement ones have been working out so well. It won’t be long before other conservative-leaning states start getting the hint and outlawing abortion, too. They can’t actually enforce their impotent anti-abortion laws, but what a great way to provoke a reopening of the landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade. For the anti-abortion faction, the new conservative-leaning court is crying out for a revisiting of the 33-year-old ruling that did something no other single act ever did give American women the right to control their own bodies. Therein lies the real point of the debate. It isn’t really about abortion. Legal or not, desperate pregnant women will find a way to end their pregnancies, as they have through thousands of years of human history. No, this is really a smackdown of modern women who have gotten uppity in the past three decades once they were allowed to decide when and if to bear children, and with whom. Now, many are deciding not to marry at all. Clearly, something had to be done. Behind all the rhetoric about “baby killing” and “protecting the unborn,” there’s a deeper, angrier thread about the changing role of women and how it has disrupted those traditional, if mythical “family values.” Still, the strident will yell, “The babies must not die!” OK, OK. I think everybody agrees that the killing of babies, even teeny weeny cell-cluster ones, is definitely not cool. Abortions are terrible, horrible and painful things no more so than for the woman who goes through them. This message has gotten through. Fewer women and teenage girls are having abortions these days. Meanwhile, more women are choosing to have babies. Anyone with eyes or a subscription to People magazine has noticed there’s a baby boomlet on. And not just among celebrities like Britney and Angelina, who are making their “bumps” the red carpet accessory this year. (Celebrities would adopt full body veils if fashion dictated. “Next on ‘ET,’ Paris on burkas: “They’re hot!”‘) Official statistics bear out this trend among real people. Birth rates increased nationwide in 2004 over the previous year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. What’s no doubt chilling to traditionalists is that of the 4.1 million births in 2004, the last year for which the NCHS has reported, a record number, or 1.5 million babies, were born to unmarried women. Considering that’s part of an upward trend, bet on the 2005 figures and 2006 increasing. Meanwhile, single women are now the largest segment of the home-buying population. Double yikes. Thus the backlash. And since it’s unseemly to come across as sexist, the “bad woman” debate has been sublimated into the “bad abortion” debate. After all, it was Roe v. Wade that started it all. It’s all so sadly predictable. Each period of women’s rights making strides was followed by a backlash. In the post-Civil War days, for example, when the women’s suffrage movement started gaining real ground and legitimacy, the growing self-determination of women was soon quashed. Men like Anthony Comstock, a crusader against “immorality,” which extended to condoms and medical anatomy textbooks, led the crackdown. It took another half-century of struggle before women finally got the right to vote. It appears inevitable that we’re headed to some sort of forced national debate on abortion. But we’d better be clear what it is we’re debating, and it’s not the children. Mariel Garza is a columnist and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Daily News. Write to her by e-mail at [email protected] AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!